homesick Englishman by the name of Nicholas Pike brought with him 50
House Sparrows from England and released them in Brooklyn, New York.
Those 50 sparrows quickly adapted to the American lifestyle, driving out
birds that had been native here. Today, House Sparrows are one of the
most common birds in the World, having been introduced virtually
everywhere. The House Sparrow is not a true sparrow but is actually a
member of the weaver finch family. It is a brown bird with a black bib
and is often seen around fast food restaurants, stores and people's
The House Sparrow has driven birds like the
Bluebird and Purple Martin from areas where they were once common. House
Sparrows nest in bird boxes, tree holes and in almost any nook or cranny
of a building. They are aggressive fighters and will evict ANY nesting
bird from a cavity to take over the site. House Sparrows will tear up
nests, break eggs, kill and toss out nestlings and adults and then build
their nest right on top of the carnage.
Do NOT help House Sparrows to nest around your
home. Buy nest boxes designed to exclude sparrows by having an opening
only large enough for a Chickadee, Swallow, etc. On your existing boxes
with openings over 1-1/8", install an opening adapter to reduce the
opening to 1" to 1-1/8". But be sure to note that Bluebird
boxes use 1-1/2” holes, which a House Sparrow CAN fit through. But
there are things you can do to discourage the Sparrows. Plugging the
entrance hole of a box taken over by sparrows will prevent the male from
using that specific box, and might even encourage him to move elsewhere.
Some people plug the entrance hole at the end of the nesting season and
leave it plugged until the bluebirds arrive in the spring. This will
prevent sparrows from roosting in the box during the winter, and then
staking an early claim in the spring. More active techniques, such as
trapping, can also be appropriate. The North American Bluebird Society
has much more specific information. See http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/sparrow.htm
on the web.
Another good source of information about Bluebirds
is the Sialis
website at . They have an excellent page for
controlling House Sparrows, including tips on using monofilament
fishing line to discourage them.
Regarding bird feeding, House Sparrows are very
opportunistic. It is sometimes suggested to eliminate mixed bird seed
from your feeders and use only sunflower, niger (thistle) and suet. But
the experience of Tulsa Audubon is that House Sparrows love black oil
sunflower seed and will also eat niger and suet, so selective feeding is
not an effective deterrent. If you are lucky enough to have Bluebirds in
your area and have a House Sparrow problem, you may want to try what one
of our members does – stop feeding the birds entirely in late winter,
when the Bluebirds start getting ready to nest. However, many of us
don't have Bluebird habitat and want to encourage a wide variety of
birds at our feeders.
Our native birds really need your help to have a
place to nest that is safe from the attacks of the House Sparrow.
the early 1890's, the Acclimation Society of North America released 50
pairs of Starlings into New York's Central Park as part of a project to
introduce every bird ever mentioned in a Shakespeare play. Only 50 years
later their populations had spread across the continent, competing for
nesting sites with our native birds. Starlings are black birds about the
size of a Robin. In the late fall, Starlings turn dark black and brown
with white speckles or "Stars".
Whatever negative qualities a House Sparrow
bears, a Starling is much worse. They also take over nesting cavities
and will evict birds larger than themselves like Flickers, Wood Ducks
and Kestrels. Starlings are messy, quarrelsome, aggressive, and noisy.
They gather by the thousands in their winter roosts and in the Spring
nest in cavities to produce 2-3 broods.
Use nest boxes that discourage Starlings. A
nest box with an entrance hole of 1-1/2" or less will deter
Starlings. Evict Starlings you find in your nest boxes. Starlings like
dark places so having a light colored interior nest box will help
discourage the Starling. Our larger native cavity nesters also really
need your assistance!